“Re-flowering flowers”, i.e., the metamorphic artistic representations of plants in which one flower gives birth to other ones, are often detectable in the phytoiconography of the Greek-Roman art. Through an extensive analysis of archaeological artworks in the Euro-Mediterranean and West- Asian area, we found the diffusion of this motif starting from the Hellenistic period (IV century B.C.). The metamorphic flowers motif became a dominant element in triumphal arches, and later also in coffered ceilings, forming the so-called “rosettes”. The identification of the single plant ele- ments of these compositions can be carried out both on pottery (among which the best examples come from the Apulian and Greek vases) and on carved structures, where colours are no longer pres- ent. We analyzed in detail the botanical compositions of the scrolls of the Ara Pacis and in the tri- umphal Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus in Rome (Italy). The results enhanced the represen- tation of a relevant floristic richness with some recurrent flowers, such as those of Lilium, Anemone, Silene, Stellaria, Anthemis, Calendula, Scabiosa, Asphodelus, Nuphar, Carlina and Laurus, but also fruits, shoots, bulbs and floral buds. This motif seems linked to the leading thread of the metamor- phosis in the Hellenistic culture and the revived Pythagorean theories of the Augustan age. The con- tinuous transformation of an element into another suggests a spatial translation of temporal concepts: the absence of an end; death as a prelude to a new life. We should better understand the meanings of natural elements in the ancient artistic representations since they were not used only as a mere dec- orative motif but were part of a widely shared symbolic language.
Caneva, G., Monaco, A., Virgili, P., Bartoli, F. (2019). “Re-flowering flowers”: the hope of an eternal blooming since Roman times. FLORA MEDITERRANEA, 29, 27-44 [10.7320/FlMedit29.027].